The legal remedies for victims of child abuse in English football
This piece was written for and first published by LawInSport. A copy of the original is available to view here.
Watching the distress of footballer 43 year-old Andy Woodward disclosing his experience of being sexually abused as a boy from the age of 11 until 15 by Barry Bennell, his football coach, is a stark reminder if one were needed of the far-reaching emotional damage that abuse brings in its wake.
There are no reported cases of claims within professional football brought by former players against their coaches for sexual abuse when playing in youth teams, football academies or as apprentice players. Claims against youth club leaders, sports coaches in schools and local clubs are not unusual and have been brought, albeit most have been settled. Other jurisdictions have had well-publicised claims where former school sports coaches are alleged to have sexually assaulted pupils. In such cases the nature of the relationship between the coach as a teacher on the one hand and the young person as pupil on the other has been highlighted.
As more footballers come forward to give their own accounts of being sexually exploited and as the Football Association announce the setting up of their own internal inquiry to be chaired by Kate Gallafant QC*, what legal remedies are open to the growing number of those coming forward? Who should the complainant then be suing? And does the context in which the abuse occurred – the provision of coaching in boys’ football clubs linked to well-known clubs as well as coaching provided in youth teams of those same clubs – create any specific legal challenges? Accordingly, this article examines:
- Actions against the perpetrator of abuse
- Actions against the employer of the perpetrator
◦ The two stage test for vicarious liability
◦ GB v Stoke City Football Club & Peter Fox
◦ Collett v Smith
- The case against Barry Bennell.
* now replaced by Clive Sheldon QC.
This piece was written for and first published by LawInSport. The full article is available to view here.
Barristers: Patrick Sadd